A MAJOR health alert was issued over the dangers posed by bacteria-laden flood waters as Cork suffered its fourth flooding nightmare in just four weeks.
The River Lee broke its banks for a second time in 24 hours and the fourth time since early January due to high tides, torrential rain and a one-metre high storm surge.
But Limerick residents and traders breathed a sigh of relief as the city escaped a second round of flooding from the River Shannon.
Both Limerick County and City councils confirmed no further flooding with high tides over the next 36 hours predicted to be up to two metres lower than on Saturday when the worst floods in living memory hit the city.
Saturday's flooding hit 200 acres of the city, impacting 300 houses and over 3,000 people.
However, while Limerick residents began the clean-up, homeowners in Athlone were being given sandbags as water levels on the River Shannon threaten low-lying properties.
Athlone Town Council activated its flood emergency plan on Monday due to the rising water levels with 2,000 sandbags ready for distribution. A further 2,000 have been in place since January when flooding also threatened the town.
In Cork, pressure has mounted on the Office of Public Works (OPW) to fast-track a long-delayed flood defence plan for Ireland's lowest lying city.
While parts of the city centre were left under flood waters last night, the damage was limited due to a major emergency plan by Cork City Council, Cork Fire Brigade and trader groups.
Stores on Oliver Plunkett Street, Patrick Street and other vulnerable areas had moved stock out of the reach of flood waters after a 24-hour advance warning.
Both Cork Chamber of Commerce and Cork Business Association warned that the clean-up costs will still be disastrous for some retailers.
Parts of the city centre were effectively evacuated as a precautionary measure given the scale of the feared storm surge.
Cork School of Music and Cork College of Commerce were both ordered to close by 7pm because of their location in a high-risk flood zone.
A number of businesses also closed early to allow flood gates and sand-bags to be installed.
Gardai and traffic wardens warned motorists not to leave vehicles parked in flood zones including Union Quay, Morrisson's Quay, Fr Mathew Quay, Oliver Plunkett Street, Lavitt's Quay, Proby's Quay and Sharman-Crawford Street.
City Manager Tim Lucey had appealed to all householders and traders to be on their premises from 6pm to aid in the flood protection campaign.
"We have done everything we possibly can. We are dealing with quite an extensive area and we needed property owners to be on their premises to check flood defences," he said.
But while Cork city took the brunt of the flooding, deluges also hit county towns including Mallow, Fermoy, Youghal, Bandon, Cobh, Clonakilty, Carrigaline and Bantry. Access to Cobh on Great Island was again restricted because of flooding near Belvelly Bridge.
Train passengers using the services into and out of Waterford city were transferred on buses yesterday after Plunkett Station was closed at 9.30am because of flooding at the platforms. And train services between Limerick and Ennis were suspended because the rail line is flooded in two places.
Concern over the risks posed by the flooding prompted the HSE to issue a health warning for flooded areas including Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
In some areas, the flood waters have resulted in sewers and septic tanks overflowing with the sludge flowing into homes, streets and gardens.
The HSE urged parents not to allow children to play in flood waters given the potentially high bacteria levels present.
People were also urged to wash their hands carefully if they come in contact with floods and not to expose any cuts or grazes to such water.
Anyone who feels unwell after they have come in contact with flood waters is urged to seek urgent medical advice.